E: I’m quaking about the ten best picture nominees. I finally, finally get all five right last year and they go and do this? Bah. It’s enough to make an Oscar-watcher weep. I suppose it’s a good thing, then, that the acting categories seem to be pretty stable. I suppose.
If you’ve never seen my predictions, let me say this. I read a lot on the topic and I make good guesses. My instincts aren’t too shabby. But you know what I like just as much as predicting a so-called shocking nomination, gratifying though that may be? Being totally wrong about a safe one. Well. Fine. Sometimes that can make me sad, especially if it’s a movie or performance I like, but the point is, I love surprises. That’s why predicting the nominations is actually more fun for me than predicting the winners. There’s much more of a chance to be wrong, and much more likelihood of being surprised. Follow after the jump to see what I think will happen at 8:30 Eastern time tomorrow morning when the Oscar nominations (woohoo!) are announced.
By the way, I hope you at least glance over the text, because I generally don’t just list the five I think will be nominated in a clump – I’m giving you the full picture of certainty and confusion both. Please enjoy!
Best Supporting Actor:
Everyone’s Top Five:
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Because Crazy Things Do Happen:
Alec Baldwin, It’s Complicated
Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker
Christopher McKay, Me and Orson Welles
Alfred Molina, An Education
Stanley Tucci, Julie and Julia
These five fellows have shown up on all the precursor lists. It’s an unusually static list; most years there’s an overabundance of male supporting contenders, but no, not this year. This stability is particularly surprising given the attention Anthony Mackie got from critics (and last year’s Independent Spirit Awards) for his role in The Hurt Locker, or Alfred Molina for his nervous father in An Education. Of the presumptive nominees, I’ve only seen Waltz’s S. S. Colonel thus far. (Apparently I’m the only one who would call him the film’s lead?) I have seen Molina, however, and I consider it a superior performance – superior to Waltz, even. It’s a shame that he’s probably not going to get his first ever (and probably long overdue) nomination.
More likely to receive long overdue nominations are Plummer, for the plummy role of Tolstoy in his last days, and Tucci for his killer next door. The Lovely Bones is a misfire and Julie and Julia a hit; still, family favorite Tucci is more likely to be remembered for his murderous role than for his lovely, loving husband. It’s the whole Mr. Darcy critique yet again; the Academy prefers to look Serious. Damon hopes to add a second acting nod to his resume (it’s a bit hard to believe, isn’t it, that Good Will Hunting was 12 years ago, and that with all he’s done, to box office success, genuine stardom and generally good notices, that it’s taken this long) for playing a South African rugby player. And Harrelson will rack up his second career nomination as a dour harbinger of death. It’s so strange to think that Woody from Cheers has got more than Plummer, who’s been acting forever, and Tucci, beloved of critics and Quibbling Siblings alike.
It’s not outside the realm of possibility that one of the other fellows I’ve listed could shove his way onto this list (I’ve got my fingers crossed for you, Alfred!), but I sincerely doubt it. I couldn’t even tell you which of the five would be the most vulnerable.
Best Supporting Actress:
So Say We All:
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
The Next Most Obvious:
Julianne Moore, A Single Man
Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds
Penelope Cruz, Nine
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Melanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds
Samantha Morton, The Messenger
Supporting Actress is probably the most unsettled of the acting category. There are really two slots up for grabs here. The big question here is when did Academy members vote? Penelope Cruz got SAG and Golden Globe nominations before Nine was in actual release. Is her nomination in trouble now that the movie had bombed? I’d have to say so. It’s hard to pull a nomination out of a recent flop. We won’t know until early Tuesday morning whether or not the box office problems have entirely scuttled her chances. Mo’Nique, Kendrick and Farmiga have appeared on all shortlists (Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, Critic’s Choice), and Kendrick actually stole a critics prize from Miss Mo. Kruger and Moore have, respectively, SAG and Golden Globe nominations in their columns. I can’t fathom anyone seeing Inglourious Basterds and not being awed by Melanie Laurent, and I’ve heard phenomenal things about Samantha Morton, who’s wormed her way into acting races she was counted out of before. Twice.
So perhaps it comes down to what roles are freshest in the voters minds and which make the biggest impact. Could it be Gyllenhaal, who plays Jeff Bridges’ love interest (shudder) in Crazy Heart, a film that’s suddenly dear to Hollywood’s heart? Bridges’ popularity could give her a great boost. Dave Karger – Entertainment Weekly‘s Oscar savant – thinks that grieving widow Morton will sneak in again, and that Moore will pick up her fifth career nod for her delusional divorcee. I’ve heard amazing things about Morton, and I wouldn’t be shocked, but I’m wondering about the recent serge of Inglourious Basterds, and whether love for that film might translate into a nod for one of it’s sensational ladies. My money for a shocker? Melanie Laurent’s fiery insurgent. So that’s me, out on a big big limb – Cruz is out, Moore and Laurent are in.
People here – more than in any other race – are just jostling for nominations. You could call it (in the parlance of a classic SNL skit) The Race to be the Ones Who Lose to Mo’Nique. Whoever they turn out to be, the rest of the nominees are just there for the party.
So Say We All:
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
And the Next Most Obvious Candidate Is:
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
If Not, Ugh – Who Else?:
Matt Damon, The Informant!
Robert Downey, Jr., Sherlock Holmes
Ben Foster, The Messenger
Daniel Day Lewis, Nine
Tobey Maguire, Brothers
Viggo Mortensen, The Road
Michael Sheen, The Damned United
Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man
Per usual, there seem to be four slots locked down (although I suppose of the four, Freeman and Firth have seen their movies flounder). Still, the Best Actor nods will almost certainly begin with Jeff Bridges name (for his third career nomination), followed by Clooney, Firth and Freeman (unless Foster sneaks to break up the order). It’s the one that comes next in the alphabet that’s currently causing the most head-scratching.
Bridges, you might recall, has eaten up all the precursor awards for his broken down country singer. Mr. Bridges, I’m looking forward to see if you’re as good as reported now that your movie finally (finally!) shown up in the greater Boston area! Firth’s beautifully pained English professor damn well better earn the under-appreciated actor his first ever nod. I will be stamping my little feet in fury if anything happens to him. Oscar winner Freeman (I can’t say over-appreciated but he clearly does not have Firth’s problem) looks to score his nod with his portrayal of a political icon, South African President Nelson Mandela. And former winner George Clooney shines as a slick executive whose world gets tossed Up in the Air. In case you’re wondering, Freeman will be picking up his fifth nomination, and Clooney his fourth.
Renner is the obvious choice for the last slot, but I have trouble feeling fully committed to his chances. I’m not even sure why – perhaps because this category tends to go to bigger names, and Renner doesn’t have that instant recognition factor. And he’s a young whippersnapper, not an old veteran. I think it could just as easily be someone obscure (equally as obscure? from a more obscure movie?) like Stuhlbarg or Foster. There are critical faves, but none else has separated himself from the pack as Renner has. So on the other hand, it could be former nominee Mortensen or two time winner Day Lewis because they’re not obscure. Or heavens, it could be Damon, who got a lot of terrific press for The Informant! even if it’s a comedy and even if he did lose the Globe to Robert Downey Jr.
At any rate, Renner seems to be building momentum with his SAG and BAFTA noms. Other than Maguire’s surprise Golden Globe nod, it’s been Renner right on through. Maguire’s buzz seems to have stalled out after the Globes (bit of a shame, he’s another under-appreciated box office star.) Sheen has had more press for other roles (as David Frost, for example, in Frost/Nixon, or as Tony Blair in The Queen) and still missed out on a nomination. So with all that, Renner’s my begrudging pick for the uncertain fifth slot. My lack of certainty has nothing to do with his performance (which I’ve yet to see – thanks for being out on dvd, Hurt Locker!) , and all about his lack of name recognition, and as far as that goes, it’s always thrilling to see a new comer come up so far.
So Say We All:
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie and Julia
Duking It Out For the Last Slot:
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Emily Blunt, The Young Victoria
A Girl Can Dream, Can’t She?:
Abby Cornish, Bright Star
Further Dips into Talented Obscurity:
Shohreh Aghdashloo, The Stoning of Soraya M.
Yolande Moreau, Seraphine
Saorise Ronan, The Lovely Bones
Zoe Saldana, Avatar
Tilda Swinton, Julie
I think I’m the only person who thinks vulnerable, incandescent, love-wrecked Cornish still has a shot. And I’m sure that’s just because I want her to so much.
On the other hand, there’s Saldana, whose inclusion would ignite a firestorm of wrath. Is a motion capture performance a true performance, or is really just voice over work? The debate has raged on from Andy Serkis’ brilliant work as Gollum and it won’t stop here. Heck, you might remember that there were campaigns for Robin Williams (as Aladdin’s Geni) and Ellen Degeneres (as Finding Nemo‘s Dory) to be nominated for their actual voice over work. I have to include Saldana on the list, but believe you me, if they call her name tomorrow morning there will be no end to the firestorm and handwringing. Super-unlikely.
Anyhoo, on the right, we have storied veteran and previous winner Helen Mirren as Tolstoy’s spitfire wife, and on the left, fresh and doe eyed young Emily Blunt, best known for her lighter comedic roles (which is to say, typically undervalued), taking Queen Victoria from youthful uncertainty through love and into confidence. Each has two nominations to their credit. So who gets it? There’s a general feeling that it’s Mirren. Will the limited release of her movie (which is not out here yet, growl) change that? Probably not when Academy members are oversupplied with screeners. And it’s easy to root for Mirren in general. Still, it’d be a nice engagement present for the always appealing Blunt.
We all know the main contenders; there’s Bullock’s take no prisoner’s southern mom, teaching the world the meaning of Christianity. Will she get a Razzie and Oscar nominations in the same year? It’s a safe bet. There’s the diamond Lee Daniels found in Gabourey Sidibe, who battles Mo’Nique for possession of her own soul. There’s dimply British pixie Carey Mulligan as precocious school girl Jenny, testing her limits and getting An Education. And there’s the meticulous, brilliant, unequaled Meryl Streep, at her charming best, set to earn her record 16th nomination. I confess I always thought of Julia Childs as an oddly comic figure, but Meryl made me love her. Someday, Meryl, they’re going to let you win another one of these awards, and I will be jumping up and down when they do. I mean, is it fair that Hilary Swank has as many Oscars as you do? I ask you, Academy members. Does that make sense?
I’ve listed every possible contender I can think of for you, but really, there’s very little chance that it will matter.
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Most likely runners-up:
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Clint Eastwood, Invictus
Wouldn’t It Be Fun If:
J.J. Abrams, Star Trek
Wes Anderson, The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Neil Blomkamp, District 9
Pete Docter, Up
Spike Jonze, Where the Wild Things Are
Lone Scherfig, An Education
How thrilling is this? Kathryn Bigelow won the DGA prize this weekend. She’s the first woman in their 60 year history to do so. If your spirits aren’t wrecked by the idea that a woman has never won, it’s at least nice to think that drought is over. Over for the industry and those who’re obsessive Oscar watchers like me, anyway. (And, to be fair, I feel certain that Jane Campion would have won in 1993 for The Piano if she hadn’t been up against a once in a life time triumph like Schindler’s List.)
So, on to Oscar. Bigelow is a given, as is her ex-husband Cameron. (Er, unless the ill-will and jealousy he engenders affect his chances, but I don’t think so. His film was too much of a game changer for that to happen without sturm und drang.) Most award giving bodies have singled out Daniels, Reitman and Tarantino along with the former spouses. The director’s branch of the Academy is rarely in perfect agreement with other award giving bodies. It’s an oddity that Director and Picture don’t usually match up perfectly – after all, a movie doesn’t direct itself, and if the film is nomination worthy you’d think the direction would be, too. Be that as it may, those five people directed the five movies everyone agrees would have been nominated if it were a normal, five nominee year.
If anyone here is vulnerable, it would be the unknown Daniels or previous nominee Reitman, whose movie is fast losing its buzz. (Odd point of fact? Daniels has made one other movie, something I’d never heard of called Shadowboxer. It features, if you can believe it, a character named Precious. Played by Mo’Nique.) But who would replace them? Oddly enough no one is talking about the Coen brothers, or Owen Moverman of The Messenger. That’s the kind of thing that makes me wonder if their movies aren’t really in the running. Jonze, Anderson and Docter made lauded animated/mixed media films, but the stigma attached to kids movies likely means that their vision and creativity will be overlooked. I know it’s not fair. I don’t make the rules here. Believe me, things would look a whole lot different if I did. Fair or not, well-made works for children rarely if ever get the same level of respect that even middling works for adults do.
Anyhow. We know the Academy loves Clint Eastwood, so you can never count him completely out. Scherfig is possible, though highly unlikely. If there were to be a surprise, I could see Jonze (who got quite a bit of praise even from those who didn’t like his movie) and Blomkamp being it. Honestly, however, I don’t expect it. I think the presumed five are the five.
So Say We All:
The Hurt Locker
Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire
Up in the Air
(500)Days of Summer
Julie and Julia
The Blind Side
A Serious Man
Where the Wild Things Are
Please excuse me while I tear my hair out. Eight out of the ten slots seem pretty solid to me, but the other two I think are real headaches. And don’t even get me started on the completely insane weighted voting method the Academy uses to establish Best Picture. Or the movies that inexplicably lose momentum. Whatever happened to The Road, anyway? Cormac McCarthy novel, post-apocalpytic race for survival with major literary cred? Wasn’t that poised to be the movie of the year? Didn’t we think that a year ago, when they postponed it for an awards season release? I don’t remember it being savaged by critics, a la All the Pretty Horses, but it’s somehow just slipped beneath the waves. What’s going on with that?
Okay, sorry, rant over. There are some clear things that we do know, which are – Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious and Up in the Air. Phew. Those are names you’ve seen the whole way through. The Hurt Locker is uniformly the critics favorite; Avatar is the public’s, and it’s well made (if predictable) so it stays. Inglourious Basterds and Precious have rabid following, and that’s often what it takes to make it onto the Best Picture shortlist – Academy member fans who promote you passionately. Almost as probable as the top five is the coming of age story An Education, the politico-athletic inspirational true story Invictus, and the loveliest picture of the year, the animated masterwork Up. And yes, the Academy is squeamish about nominating animated movies for Best Picture, but there are ten slots here, so the second best reviewed movie of the year ought to also make the list. Huzzah. It is at this point where things start to get tricky.
I have no scientific basis for saying so, but because there are ten nominees, I think we may get a few bolder choices. I’m guessing this partly because of the PGA, although they do tend to be accepting of popular films. That was the whole point of this 10 nominee experiment, wasn’t it? To include movies your average person has seen and cares about while still making room for the lofty stuff? And that would not be The Messenger or A Serious Man, even though it’s certainly possible those films could make the final list. I think at least one if not two of the remaining sci fi epics will make it in; District 9 has the benefit of not being inspired by a cult tv series, which gives it the edge in my judgment. (I think Star Trek is a better movie, and it’s not because I’m a Trekkie, even though I am. District 9 might be original and exciting, but I had a lot of problems with it and the execution of its alien apartheid analogy. But we’re not talking about what I would choose.) If Star Trek doesn’t make the cut, I think the next shot is a comedy. And of the comedies, it’s an even tougher choice as to who might make the last slot. Would Academy members follow the Hollywood Foreign Press and choose the year’s box office success, The Hangover? Or is that too broad and raunchy? Would they go for a comedic set of true stories, Julie and Julia? Or might they dangle for an edgy indie darling, the romantic triffle (500) Days of Summer? Top Comedy option? I’m going to say The Hangover, because I think a lot of people are intense about it, but I’m going to guess that the Academy just doesn’t go for the laughs this time. I’ll go out on a limb once more and say that the tenth film will be Star Trek. I’m going to call it The Year of Science Fiction (and so it will be if even two of the three possible nominees get in). You’ve got to pick something, and with ten nominees, who on earth really knows? Ah well. I can’t even believe I’m predicting that, actually. And if it happens that Star Trek is nominated, well made film though it is, that might freak out enough Academy members to switch back to more exclusive 5 nominee format.
And that’s it! Man, that was painful, and not just because my computer ate this half way through. I absolutely cannot wait for tomorrow morning, to see if all of my ordinary – and any of my more outrageous – picks are right. Thanks for making it all the way through! What are your choices? What do you wish the Academy was considering?